A Religion for the People
"Our savior did not come into the world to save
metaphysicians only." (1818)
The ancient Greece that Jefferson much admired suffered from a serious division that he would neither commend nor support: a bifurcation in religion. Greek popular religion bore little if any resemblance to the religion of the Greek philosophers, nor did the two theological or liturgical worlds engage in any serious dialogue with each other. The mysteries of Dionysius or the Great Mother moved in one direction, the speculations of Plato or Aristotle, of Epicurus or Epictetus, in quite another. And Jefferson would have considered that sad circumstance as the attainment of neither a civic nor a religious ideal.
He had different hopes and expectations for America, different hopes and expectations for religion that followed and built upon the Enlightenment. The teachings of Jesus had relevance well beyond the confines of Christianity, just because moral duties and moral instincts had relevance that tran-